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Being Brief

Being Brief

Last time, training introduced the concept of briefing in aviation. The article emphasised the need for any brief to be brief, relevant and to the point. This post I want to look in greater detail at the pre-flight brief from a student’s point of view.

What should you as the student get from this brief? During military instructor’s course a lot of time was spent on being taught how to brief the sortie – and as a trainee instructor I quickly learned a well structured, relevant brief would set the tone for the flight and ensure the student was clear on what was going to be taught, how it was to be taught, what was expected of him or her, and any uncertainty dealt with. The instructor’s job is to teach you how to fly. So if a brief concentrates solely on what you are going to do, not how to do it, it is missing the point.  So as a student what should you expect from the pre-flight brief?

The basic structure of the brief revolves around an overall introduction covering the aim, airmanship points and consideration’s specific to the sortie. Once these are clear, the instructor should go into some detail on how each of the aims will be taught to the student, and should finish by detailing the air exercise (what will be done in what order) and finish by ensuring that the student understands what is expected of them. Throughout the brief, a good instructor should use questions appropriate to your level of knowledge to test that the message is getting across and also determine your level of preparation. Anyone who has sat through a “lecture” type brief will attest to the uselessness of this style. If you instructor briefs like this – change instructors. You will learn nothing, as information is lost quickly as their next pearl of wisdom bombards you. Usually these type of instructors teach what and not how in their briefs – and their flights. As a student, when you turn up for a sortie I already expect you to know what we are going to do – leave it up to me to teach you how to do it.

So as a student what should you have done before you turn up at my door? Ensure you know what we are about to do. Ensure you have been in contact with your instructor to prior to the flight to find out what you need to study up on – nothing should come as a surprise in the brief. Make sure you have read all you can on the planned exercises. Make sure you have checked the weather, notams etc before brief and without being asked. Ensure the aeroplane is serviceable and ready. And be prepared to ask and answer questions in the brief – no student should expect to go through a brief without having to answer a number of questions to at least determine level of preparation and understanding of the planned exercises. Ok, you know what it is we are about to do now you are ready to be taught how to do it.

The introduction should firstly state the aim of the sortie. “Stalling” is not an aim. “Recognition of and Recovery from the stall” is. It clearly states to the student that what is important is recognition of, and recovery from the stall. All encompassing words such as “stalling” tell the student nothing. It also clears the instructor’s mind and ensures they don’t go on emphasising useless stuff like the set up to practice stalls. Who cares how well the set up is flown – what we are concerned about is ensuring the student can recognise when their aeroplane is approaching, entering and finally stalled, and then effectively recover the aeroplane from the stall at those various stages.

Next, important airmanship aspects should be discussed so the student is able to concentrate on what the instructor assesses to be important. For example, lookout and MSA awareness during the stalling exercise may be discussed – again making sure that the student is able to build airmanship in a structured and controlled way. I don’t want my student thinking that periodic checks are important in the middle of a stalling exercise.

Finally, some considerations are briefed in order get the student concentrating on aspects of their flying related to the air exercise that may need work or reinforcement. An example here may be reinforcing ANCA as a work cycle.

The guts of the brief is how to fly the aims. For stalling the instructor may for example tell you how to feel for the light buffet, detail the amount of control column movement you should make in order to unload and un-stall the wing, and how to determine when the wing is un-stalled. This should be done not through simply telling you how, but through effective questions that draws your knowledge to the surface.


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